Subject: STOP THE KILLINGS IN NORTHERN MINDANAO, PHILIPPINES !
Date: Sun, 9 Feb 2014 09:00:37 +0800
From: RMP-NMR Information <info@rmp-nmr.org>
To: info@rmp-nmr.org

 Stop the killings in Northern Mindanao!

A joint statement on the killing of peasant leader Julito Lauron and the unabated militarization, human rights violations and impunity in Northern Mindanao

We condemn the killing of Julito Lauron on February 5, 2014 by still unidentified gunmen. Stemming from the bitter hardships brought about by landlessness, rural sectors who have organized themselves to assert their rights are being threatened or summarily killed, exacerbating the already hard conditions their families face.

The slogan “stop the killings!” carry the weight of the lives that had already been sacrificed in this long struggle for land rights in Northern Mindanao region– that of Jimmy Liguyon, Gilbert Paborada, Rollen Langala and Margarito Cabal and hundred more individuals.

Despite the tremendous efforts coming from grassroots and non-state actors to put an end to rights abuses, including grave violations to the right to life and liberty, the shadowy operatives are at it again. Obviously, there is no rule of law in these areas where police and military forces – massive though they are with camps set up in rural communities by the latter – are not able to stop these killings.

At about 10:45 am of February 5, 2014 Julieto Lauron and Nermie Lapatis, chairperson and secretary, respectively, of the Kahugpungan sa mga Mag-uuma sa Bukidnon, were shot by two unidentified men while on their way to the poblacion of Valencia City . Lauron was killed on the spot. One bullet passed through his nape and exited through his forehead. He sustained two more bullet wounds in his chest and another in the stomach. Lapatis managed so survive by pretending to be dead. She sustained several gunshot wounds as well and is currently confined at a hospital.

According to Lapatis, the assailants wore black jackets, ski masks and were riding a red XRM motorcycle. The assailants overtook them, blocked their way and fired several shots at them –  a typical strategy of the riding-in-tandem death squads that haunted social justice activists in the Philippines .

The killing occurred at a time when Kahugpungan sa mga Mag-uuma sa Valencia (KASAMA-Valencia or Association of Peasants in Valencia ) is at the height of consolidating its membership in the agro-industrial city of Valencia . Julieto Lauron has just become the chairperson of KASAMA-Valencia Barangay Vintar chapter. The victims were on their way to a peasant community in the city for a meeting.

Nermie Lapatis on the other hand, is a seasoned land rights activist. Formerly a resident of Sitio Magkalungay, San Fernando , Bukidnon, she actively campaigned against the entry of large scale mining in the Municipality of San Fernando , Bukidnon. She also was one of the active participants and organizers in the series of camp-out protests in the province’s capitol building in 2012. Her staunch opposition to the continued human rights abuses in San Fernando put her in the cross hairs of Paramilitary group New Indigenous Peoples’ Army for Reform (NIPAR) and of the 8th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army. Threats, harassments and intimidations forced her to leave home and relocate with her entire family to Valencia City .

Continuing her work as a land rights activist, together with Julieto Lauron, Nermie Lapatis became active in the campaigns of KASAMA – Valencia and subsequently in organizing the peasant communities within Valencia City . Through the contributions of Lapatis and Lauron, KASAMA Valencia initiated a campaign for farmworkers in Banlag , Valencia City last October 2012. The peasant organization succeeded, through successful negotiations with local landlords, in increasing the daily wage of the workers from 125 Php per day to 150 Php and subsequently to 200 Php.

Members from the local chapter of Kasama-Valencia narrated that on February 2, 2014, in the general assembly wherein Julieto was elected, two unknown individuals were taking pictures of the participants – including Julieto. Nermie Lapatis was also present in the said activity.

We are outraged at the lack of concrete measures to stop the unabated rights abuses in the province. The pinnacle of impunity is manifested in the stagnant case of the killing of village chieftain Jimmy Liguyon, whose killer Alde Salusad is still, up to now, roaming the communities of San Fernando despite the fact that a warrant of arrest had been served against him by the formal courts. Without fearing capture, Salusad has embarked on a Lumad killing spree. To date, the group of Salusad is responsible for the deaths of at least three individuals (Liguyon, Abundio Mantuguhan and Datu Erning Mantuguhan), and several cases of harassments. Salusad is also the main ring leader behind the small scale operations in hinterland San Fernando despite the fact that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources has released a cease and desist order to halt the mining operations.

We condemn the criminal negligence of the law enforcement agencies in apprehending the warlord Salusad. Their lacklustre effort is the direct reason why Salusad has become emboldened to commit grave rights abuses without fearing accountability. The alibies of the local authorities for their failure to catch Salusad because of his armaments is extremely unacceptable, and are in fact laughable considering the wealth of armed resources available to them being state agents.

Even after the UN special rapporteurs on human rights defenders and on extra-judicial killings issued a joint statement on 9 July 2012 criticizing the Aquino III administration for the attacks on human rights and environmental defenders, especially in Mindanao, the killings of human rights defenders working on land rights have not let-up. UNSR on human rights defenders said that “disputes over land rights and campaigns against mining and dam projects infringing on the rights of local communities tend to be sensitive, and those defending such rights are often met with violence.”

With the escalation of the abuses against local communities and their defenders struggling for land and life, now more than ever, we are determined to push for respect for the civil and political rights of the rural poor.

We call for the following:

1. We call on the local authorities to act on this incident. Being stewards of their constituency, they are responsible for the protection of the human rights of their people. We urge them to investigate the circumstances surrounding the incident and prosecute the criminals behind the killing of Lauron and the attempt on Lapatis. We also urge them to provide additional safety for the witnesses, families and the survivor.

2. We call for the halting of Oplan Bayanihan, a bloody political suppression campaign paralleling that of Aquino III’s predecessors, militarizing rural and urban communities, and targeting civilian communities and activists. 3. We call on the various human rights groups, both national and international to condemn the continued killings under the Aquino regime. Subsequently, we call on them to provide aid for the families left behind by Lauron and provide for the relocation and protection of Nermie Lapati in the immediate, and in the conduct of independent investigations on the series of extra-judicial killings and human rights violations in Northern Mindanao .

Stop the killings! Uphold human rights and end impunity in Northern Mindanao !

A joint statement of

Kahugpungan sa mga Mag-uuma sa Bukidnon (KASAMA Bukidnon)

Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas-Northern Mindanao Region

Kalumbay Regional Lumad Organization

Amihan Northern Mindanao

Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement od People’s Rights-Northern Mindanao Region

Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-Northern Mindanao Sub-Region

08 February 2014

RURAL MISSIONARIES OF THE PHILIPPINES-Northern Mindanao Sub-Region (RMP-NMR)
Room 01, Kalinaw Lanao Center for Interfaith Resources
0016 Bougainvilla Puti, Villaverde
9200 Iligan City , Philippines
T/F: +63 (63) 223 5179

E: info@rmp-nmr.org

S: rural.missionaries

W: www.rmp-nmr.org

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